First talking robot-astronaut to take off next month

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ROBONAUTTOKYO, June 26;The world’s first space conversation experiment between a robot and humans is ready to be launched.

Developers from the Kirobo project, named after kibo (hope in Japanese) and “robot”, gathered in Tokyo on Wednesday to demonstrate the humanoid robot’s ability to talk.

“Russia was the first to go outer space, the U.S. was the first to go to the moon, we want Japan to be the first to send a robot-astronaut to space that can communicate with humans,” said Yorichika Nishijima, the Kirobo project manager.

The experiment is collaboration between advertising and PR company Dentsu; the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology; the University of Tokyo; Robo Garage; and Toyota Motor.

Tomotaka Takahashi, CEO of Robo Garage and associate professor at the University of Tokyo, said he hopes robots like Kirobo that hold conversations will eventually be used to assist astronauts working in space.

Because Kirobo does not need to perform physical activities, it is smaller than most robots that go into space. Kirobo is about 34 cm and weighs about one kg.

Its land-based counterpart Mirata looks identical and has the ability to learn through the conversations it has.

During the demonstration, Fuminori Kataoka, project general manager from Toyota, asked Kirobo what its dream was.

“I want to create a future where humans and robots can live together and get along,” it answered.

Kirobo is scheduled to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre on August 4, 2013.

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